Toxic chemicals and heavy metals are collecting in the tissue of fish and the sediment beneath the water of Mountain Island Lake, according to a new study out this week.
A recent independent study by the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation determined that drinking water supplied by the lake is safe but the fish and sediment from the lake contains high levels of unacceptable industrial matter, according to David Merryman, Catawba Riverkeeper.
“I think from these results we should at least evaluate our fish consumption for PCBs, and that’s something I’ll be calling for,” said Merryman.
A PCB concentration of 70.7 parts per billion was found in largemouth bass that were tested. That is more than 20 points higher than levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Merryman.
Mountain Island Lake provides water to Gastonia, Mount Holly and several other municipalities and is also a popular fishing spot for anglers in the area.
Samples of fish also showed signs of barium, mercury and selenium.
Any advisories about the consumption of fish would have to come from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The water in Mountain Island Lake proved to be free of PCBs but did include arsenic and barium. Sediment contained arsenic, barium, lead, selenium and mercury. These elements may not surpass acceptable levels, but they are alarming to Merryman.
“This is important. This is the water we drink. It’s where we swim,” he said.
Many of the chemicals detected during the independent test come from the neighboring coal-ash ponds operated by area power plants, according to Merryman.
While the coal-ash ponds are independent of Mountain Island Lake, water is skimmed off the top of the ponds regularly and dumped into the lake.
“Those coal-ash ponds are a source of heavy metals to that lake that a million and a half of us depend on to drink, to cook and wash our clothes,” said Merryman. “We really shouldn’t let industry pump heavy metals into a lake that we depend on.”
Duke Energy is allowed to discharge into the river system under a permit.
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation contracted with Pace Analytical Laboratories in Huntersville to conduct the tests on Mountain Island Lake.
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We will post more information about the water quality in Mountain Island Lake as we learn it. For now, though, please take a look at the test kits below, as they will work for testing lake water, tap water and well water for potentially hazardous levels of metals in water.